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ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs are in position to reach all their goals.

Assuming they don't slip up in the Deep South's oldest rivalry.

No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) is a two-touchdown favorite for its 123rd meeting with No. 24 Auburn, a team that has endured a disappointing season after starting out in the top 10.

If the Bulldogs can win their remaining regular-season games -- after Auburn, they'll also be big favorites against Massachusetts and Georgia Tech -- it would set up a rematch with top-ranked Alabama in the SEC championship game and a conduit to the College Football Playoff.

"We go at it even harder because we know we've got so much at stake," Georgia offensive lineman Solomon Kindley said. "We know that they're coming in here to try to ruin our season."

This will be third meeting between these teams in the last 12 months.

Auburn romped past the Bulldogs during the 2017 regular season, but Georgia rebounded with an emphatic victory in the SEC title game.

The Tigers (6-3, 3-3) are feeling more upbeat after rallying for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Texas A&M, their biggest victory since a season-opening triumph over Washington.

"It felt different from a confidence standpoint," Coach Gus Malzahn said. "That's exactly what we needed -- that kind of win to help give us some momentum moving forward."

An upset of Georgia would really give this season a whole new feel.

D'Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield are carrying on Georgia's tradition of elite running backs.

After nagging injuries slowed his production much of the season, Swift is feeling better than he has since his dynamic freshman year. It showed last week when he ripped off 156 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week's 34-17 victory over No. 11 Kentucky, clinching a second consecutive SEC East title for the Bulldogs.

"I'm definitely getting back to my old self," Swift said.

Holyfield rushed for a career-best 115 yards against the Wildcats and leads the Bulldogs with 674 yards. Swift is right on his heels (622 yards) and both are averaging over 6 yards per carry, giving Georgia the SEC's top-ranked rushing attack at 233.8 yards per game.

While Georgia's ground game is humming, Auburn's is a mess.

Four players have taken a shot as the No. 1 running back and the line has been shaky all season. The Tigers are coming off their worst showing of the season, gaining just 19 yards rushing in the victory over Texas A&M.

Malzahn said he can't afford to abandon the running game against Georgia.

"The more talented teams that you play, the more important it is to be balanced," he said.

Malzahn thought youth was issue early in the season.

Not anymore.

"We're getting to a point now where we need to be more effective," the coach said. "That's our challenge, whether it's getting a little more creative in the run game or doing things a little bit different or not doing some of the things as much. All those things are on deck."

Photo by FR170762 AP
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn

Sports on 11/10/2018

Print Headline: Georgia has playoff route, but can't slip

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